Urban Incubators

A workshop focusing on the revitalization of the generic Greek modern apartment buildings “polykatoikies” was organized by the Athens Municipality and curated by Hybrid Space Lab within the framework of the Co-Creating Athens project.

The workshop was opened by Athens Mayor Yiorgos Kaminis and the Dutch Ambassador Jan Versteeg.

Lectures & Workshop Rebooting Athens @ Co-Creating the City, City of Athens, 14 December 2014


The workshop’s main focus is the revitalization of the generic Greek modern apartment buildings “polykatoikies”. This theme was addressed from a very broad range of perspectives relevant to sustainable urban development.

The workshop’s theme is the redefinition of Athens’ ‘polykatoikia’ in practice. “Polykatoikia” (πολυκατοικία) is the Greek term for “block of flats” and derives from “poly” which means “multi” and “katoikia” which means “residence”. The typology of “polykatoikia” was used to meet the needs of post-war development, when Athens encountered its peak growth period of its modern history.

In retrospect, this development has received criticism and has been blamed for turning Athens into an amorphous mass of built space, often of poor construction quality. In addition, the economic crisis has led to further dereliction of the “polykatoikies” and has left the city with an abundance of vacant space in the form of empty apartments and shops.

However, the potential of “polykatoikia” is undeniable: it offers a framework for social inclusion, urban multi-functionality (shops, offices, and housing combined in one building) and a human scale in the city. Small-scale ownership is not always easy to manage but it is a strong factor of social integration. The skeleton-construction of the buildings is a flexible structure enabling adaptation.

“Rebooting Polykatoikies” also touched on the more general issue of ‘rebooting’ modernism, as the “polykatoikies” derive directly from Le Corbusier’s “Domino House”, an icon of modernist architecture.


– how to integrate green / urban agriculture
– how to address ‘green building’ issues
– how to create water circuitry
– how to integrate sustainable mobility (bicycles, e-bikes)
– how to address the street
– how to connect on roof top level
– how to integrate communal spaces
– how to reactivate vacant spaces
– how to turn vacancies into ‘active voids’
– how to deal with small-scale ownership (long term strategies)
– how to connect the “polykatoikia’s” community to ‘new entrepreneurship’
– how to use the “polykatoikia’s” integrative potential for different social/ethnic groups
– how to address tomorrow’s housing needs…
– …and how to reflect this in the “polykatoikia’s” architectural expression


The workshop was hosted in a vacant shopping passage in the city center, where the Traces of Commerce initiative is running a participative revitalization project.


After a presentation of the Traces of Commerce project by its initiators Harris Biskos, Clelia Thermou, and Martha Yiannakopoulou, and a short thematic tour of the Athens shopping passages by architect Elena Zabeli, the workshop was opened by Athens Mayor Yiorgos Kaminis and by the Dutch Ambassador, Jan Versteeg. The workshop was introduced by Amalia Zepou, Athens Vice Mayor for Civil Society and Municipality Decentralisation; Egbert Fransen, Director of Pakhuis de Zwijger; and Elizabeth Sikiaridi of Hybrid Space Lab, with a series of short lectures featuring Yiorgos Sachinis of the UrbanDig Project, Andrew Clemens of Oikosteges, urban green expert Panagiotis Gkounidis, economic geographer Nicholas Karachalis, and  architect Nikos Magouliotis of BigOlive.

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